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Service Tree

Sorbus domestica

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Rosaceae (Rose)
Also in this family:
Acute Leaf-lobed Lady's-mantle, Alpine Cinquefoil, Alpine Lady's-mantle, Ampfield Cotoneaster, Arran Service Tree, Arran Whitebeam, Barren Strawberry, Bastard Agrimony, Bastard Service Tree, Bearberry Cotoneaster, Bird Cherry, Blackthorn, Bloody Whitebeam, Bramble, Bristol Whitebeam, Broad-leaved Whitebeam, Broadtooth Lady's-mantle, Bronze Pirri-pirri-bur, Bullace Plum, Bullate Cotoneaster, Burnet Rose, Catacol Whitebeam, Caucasian Lady's-mantle, Cheddar Whitebeam, Cherry Laurel, Cherry Plum, Chinese Photinia, Cloudberry, Clustered Lady's-mantle, Common Agrimony, Common Hawthorn, Common Lady's-mantle, Common Medlar, Common Ninebark, Common Whitebeam, Crab Apple, Creeping Chinese Bramble, Creeping Cinquefoil, Crimean Lady's-mantle, Cultivated Apple, Cultivated Pear, Cut-leaved Blackberry, Damson, Devon Whitebeam, Dewberry, Diel's Cotoneaster, Dog Rose, Doward Whitebeam, Dropwort, Elm-leaved Bramble, English Whitebeam, Entire-leaved Cotoneaster, False Salmonberry, Field Rose, Firethorn, Fodder Burnet, Fragrant Agrimony, Franchet's Cotoneaster, Garden Lady's-mantle, Garden Strawberry, Giant Meadowsweet, Glaucous Dog Rose, Goatsbeard Spiraea, Gough's Rock Whitebeam, Great Burnet, Greengage Plum, Grey-leaved Whitebeam, Hairless Lady's-mantle, Hairy Lady's-mantle, Hautbois Strawberry, Himalayan Blackberry, Himalayan Cotoneaster, Himalayan Whitebeam, Hoary Cinquefoil, Hollyberry Cotoneaster, Hupeh Rowan, Hybrid Cinquefoil, Hybrid Geum, Irish Whitebeam, Japanese Cherry, Japanese Quince, Japanese Rose, Jew's Mallow, Juneberry, Lancaster Whitebeam, Late Cotoneaster, Least Lady's-mantle, Least Whitebeam, Leigh Woods Whitebeam, Ley's Whitebeam, Liljefor's Whitebeam, Littleleaf Cotoneaster, Llangollen Whitebeam, Llanthony Whitebeam, Lleyn Cotoneaster, Loganberry, Many-flowered Rose, Margaret's Whitebeam, Marsh Cinquefoil, Meadowsweet, Midland Hawthorn, Mougeot's Whitebeam, Mountain Ash, Mountain Avens, Mountain Sibbaldia, Moupin's Cotoneaster, No Parking Whitebeam, Ocean Spray, Orange Whitebeam, Pale Bridewort, Pale Lady's-mantle, Parsley Piert, Pirri-pirri-bur, Plymouth Pear, Portuguese Laurel, Purple-flowered Raspberry, Quince, Raspberry, Rock Cinquefoil, Rock Lady's-mantle, Rock Whitebeam, Round-leaved Dog Rose, Round-leaved Whitebeam, Rum Cherry, Russian Cinquefoil, Salad Burnet, Sargent's Rowan, Scannell's Whitebeam, Sharp-toothed Whitebeam, Sherard's Downy Rose, Shining Lady's-mantle, Ship Rock Whitebeam, Short-styled Rose, Shrubby Cinquefoil, Silver Lady's-mantle, Silverweed, Slender Parsley Piert, Slender-spined Bramble, Small-flowered Sweetbriar, Small-leaved Sweetbriar, Soft Downy Rose, Somerset Whitebeam, Sorbaria, Sour Cherry, Southern Downy Rose, Southern Lady's-mantle, Spineless Acaena, Spring Cinquefoil, St. Lucie's Cherry, Steeplebush, Stern's Cotoneaster, Stirton's Whitebeam, Stone Bramble, Sulphur Cinquefoil, Swedish Service Tree, Swedish Whitebeam, Sweet Briar, Symond's Yat Whitebeam, Tengyueh Cotoneaster, Thimbleberry, Thin-leaved Whitebeam, Tibetan Cotoneaster, Tormentil, Trailing Tormentil, Tree Cotoneaster, Trefoil Cinquefoil, Twin-cliffs Whitebeam, Two-spined Acaena, Wall Cotoneaster, Water Avens, Waterer's Cotoneaster, Waxy Lady's-mantle, Welsh Cotoneaster, Welsh Whitebeam, White Burnet, White's Whitebeam, White-stemmed Bramble, Wild Cherry, Wild Pear, Wild Plum, Wild Service Tree, Wild Strawberry, Willmott's Whitebeam, Willow-leaved Bridewort, Willow-leaved Cotoneaster, Wineberry, Wood Avens, Wye Whitebeam, Yellow-flowered Strawberry
Deciduous tree
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
25 metres tall
Cliffs, mud, scrub, woodland.

White, 5 petals
Creamy white flowers, each up to 18mm across. Pollinated by insects.
Browish-green fruit, often tinged red. Oblong or pear-shaped. The seeds ripen in September and October.
Pinnate leaves, up to 22cm long. Serrated yellowish-green leaflets.
Other Names:
Sorb Tree, True Service Tree.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Sorbus domestica, also known as Service Tree or Sorb Apple, is a deciduous tree that is native to Europe. The tree typically grows to be about 15-25 meters tall, has a broad-rounded canopy and has leaves which are alternate and simple. The tree produces small, white or pink flowers that grow in clusters, and it bears small, red or yellow-orange berries. The tree is known for its hard, durable wood, which is used for making furniture and tool handles, and the fruit is also edible and can be used to make jams, jellies and cider. It is also cultivated as an ornamental tree and it is known for its medicinal properties, in traditional medicine it is used as a treatment for various ailments, including diarrhea and fever.


The Service Tree, also known as Sorbus domestica, is a beautiful deciduous tree that is native to Europe and Asia. It is a member of the rose family and is closely related to apples and pears. The tree has been valued for its wood, fruit, and medicinal properties for centuries, and it continues to be a popular choice for gardens and landscapes today.

Description and Characteristics

The Service Tree is a medium-sized tree that can grow up to 15-25 meters tall. It has a round, spreading canopy and a thick trunk with smooth, grey-brown bark. The leaves are simple, lobed, and serrated, and they turn a beautiful red-orange color in the fall. The tree produces small, white or pink flowers in the spring, which are followed by clusters of round, yellow or orange fruits that ripen in the fall. The fruit is edible and has a slightly tart, apple-like flavor. It is often used to make jams, jellies, and fruit liqueurs.

Cultural Significance

The Service Tree has a long history of cultural significance in Europe and Asia. In ancient times, it was believed to have magical powers and was often associated with the goddesses of the harvest. In medieval Europe, it was a popular tree to plant near churches and was known as the "service tree" because its fruit was often used to make wine for church services. The tree was also valued for its wood, which was used to make furniture, tools, and musical instruments.

Ecological Benefits

The Service Tree is an important tree for wildlife. Its fruit is a valuable food source for birds, including thrushes, waxwings, and finches. The tree also provides shelter and nesting sites for birds and small mammals. In addition, the Service Tree is a host plant for a number of moth and butterfly species, which use its leaves as a food source for their larvae.

Growing the Service Tree

The Service Tree is relatively easy to grow and can be propagated from seed or cuttings. It prefers well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade. The tree is tolerant of a wide range of soil types, but it does best in moist, fertile soil. It is also resistant to many common diseases and pests, which makes it a low-maintenance tree for gardens and landscapes.

The Service Tree is a beautiful and versatile tree that has been valued for its fruit, wood, and cultural significance for centuries. It is a valuable addition to gardens and landscapes, providing ecological benefits and aesthetic value. Its stunning fall foliage and delicious fruit make it a favorite among gardeners and nature enthusiasts alike. If you're looking for a low-maintenance tree that is easy to grow and has a rich cultural history, the Service Tree is definitely worth considering.

Medicinal Properties

The Service Tree has also been used for its medicinal properties for centuries. The fruit is high in vitamin C and has been used to treat scurvy, a disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin C. The fruit is also a good source of antioxidants, which can help to protect against inflammation and chronic diseases.

In addition, the bark of the Service Tree has been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including diarrhea, dysentery, and fever. The bark contains tannins, which have astringent properties and can help to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.

Conservation Status

Although the Service Tree is not considered to be a threatened species, it is important to preserve and protect its natural habitats. The tree is vulnerable to habitat destruction, especially in areas where forests are being cleared for agriculture or urbanization. In addition, the Service Tree is susceptible to a number of diseases and pests, which can have a negative impact on its populations.

To help protect the Service Tree, it is important to promote its cultivation and use in gardens and landscapes. This can help to preserve its genetic diversity and ensure that its many benefits are available for future generations.

The Service Tree, Sorbus domestica, is a beautiful and versatile tree with a rich cultural history and a range of ecological and medicinal benefits. Its stunning fall foliage, delicious fruit, and low-maintenance growing requirements make it a popular choice for gardens and landscapes. Its importance to wildlife and traditional medicine also make it an important species to protect and preserve. Whether you're a gardener, nature enthusiast, or simply appreciate the natural beauty of trees, the Service Tree is definitely worth getting to know.

Uses of Service Tree Fruit

The fruit of the Service Tree has been used for a variety of culinary purposes throughout history. In addition to making jams, jellies, and fruit liqueurs, it has also been used to make a traditional English pudding called "Hasty Pudding." The fruit can also be eaten fresh, although it is usually quite tart and not as sweet as many other fruits.

The fruit is also high in pectin, a natural substance that is used as a thickener in many types of preserves. This makes it an ideal fruit for making jams and jellies, which can be stored for long periods of time without spoiling.

In addition, the fruit has a number of potential health benefits. It is high in dietary fiber, which can help to promote healthy digestion and lower cholesterol levels. It is also rich in antioxidants, which can help to protect against chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease.

Other Uses

In addition to its culinary and medicinal uses, the Service Tree has also been used for a variety of other purposes throughout history. The wood of the tree is hard and dense, and has been used to make furniture, tools, and musical instruments. The bark has been used to make rope and paper, and the leaves and flowers have been used in traditional medicine.

The Service Tree has also been valued for its ornamental qualities. Its attractive foliage, beautiful flowers, and colorful fruit make it a popular choice for gardens and landscapes. It is often planted as a specimen tree or used in mixed borders, and its low-maintenance requirements make it a good choice for urban and suburban landscapes.

Overall, the Service Tree is a versatile and valuable tree that has been used for a variety of purposes throughout history. Its many benefits, including its ornamental, culinary, medicinal, and ecological qualities, make it a valuable species to protect and preserve for future generations.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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